Right from the start, I’ll tell you the Speedland SL:PDX is a high end trail running tool that’s not for everyone. The SL:PDX is high end because of the materials, components and price. It’s more a tool than shoe because of its impressive versatility. I’m not going to talk much about the $375 price tag because it automatically self selects who’s interested. If you’re not willing to pay that price, you don’t need what the SL:PDX offers. I’m also not going to compare it with other trail shoes because it’s not a fair fight. The Speedland SL:PDX is on a different level, a shoe made for those who spend all their free time running and hiking difficult trails.
Release Date: August 15, 2021
Weight: 10.3oz (9.9oz with lugs cut)
Drop: 5mm (23mm forefoot, 28mm heel)
For the Speedland SL:PDX, customization is king. The Michelin outsole comes with 3mm cuttable lugs. You can leave the lugs long if your trails are muddy or cut them if your trails are dry and rocky. I tried the lugs both ways and enjoy them cut down. But if I was running through swamps? I’d leave the lugs long. It feels awesome to be able to customize your traction based on the conditions you run in.
Alongside the cuttable lugs, the outsole also offers two cuttable drainage holes. They come uncut but again, if your trails are wet, you’ll want the two small holes open so water can drain out easier.
Moving up the midsole…well, the midsole isn’t visible. It’s removable Pebax midsole housed inside the shoe. It’s similar to the setup of the Nike Air Zoom GT Cut or the Nike Kobe 9. Attached to the bottom of the midsole is a removable carbon fiber plate made by Carbitex. The carbon fiber plate does two things. One, it acts as a rock plate to protect the foot. And two, it works with the foam to provide a bit more bounce. While I didn’t feel much spring from the carbon plate, due to it being on the bottom and not embedded in the foam, I did appreciate the carbon plate on rocky trails. The SL:PDX felt nimbler without the plate but my feet felt the rocks. Adding the plate was necessary protection to avoid sore feet after rough trails. The Pebax midsole isn’t as plush as some other Pebax foams on the market but still feels good under foot. My guess is the rubber outsole caging the bottom of the midsole prevents it from expanding as much as it could. That’s probably necessary with a trail shoe as you don’t want to be too unstable, but the firmer initial feel may surprise people. The foam does break in nicely and is cushioned enough to protect your joints on long, grueling trails.
Another positive for the SL:PDX is the upper’s comfort and customizability. The dual BOA allows for quick tightening and loosening and is easy to use with gloves on cold days. I really liked being able to start a trail run with super tight shoes to help with stability. Then I loosened the shoes as my feet expanded 30-45 minutes into the run. Wide footers will also enjoy this setup because while the Speedland SL:PDX is wide footer friendly with an ample toe box, wide footers can leave the the forefoot loose while cranking down the rear BOA to achieve a one to one fit.
The upper materials themselves also helped the shoe fit well. The knit upper uses Dyneema (a super strong space age material) to add stability and durability while still maintaining the comfort of a typical knit build. Dyneema is expensive, so I doubt we’ll see it on a basketball shoe any time soon, but it would be the perfect improvement to most knit basketball sneakers. Finally, there’s a fantastic, large Achilles pillow to prevent heel blisters and add some plushness. The SL:PDX fits true to size and packs impressive comfort for a rough and tumble trail shoe.
My main complaint was that on trails that gain/lose elevation quickly, I couldn’t quite get the heel lockdown exactly where I wanted it. Since the BOA lacing system doesn’t wrap around the back of the foot, you don’t get pressed into the heel counter the way you do with more traditional lacing. This will likely not be true for everyone (depends on your foot) but on downhills I sometimes slid into the front edge of the shoe. This didn’t happen as much after my foot sunk into and left an impression in the midsole. The lockdown gets redemption as it improves with increased use.
The only other complaint is the material used on the straps. It’s a synthetic suede or felt type fabric most likely chosen for its durability and softness across the top of the foot. To me, it just doesn’t feel as premium as the rest of the shoe. Not sure what should replace it, but I see that as a place for Speedland to improve future models.
Speedland SL:PDX Summary
The Speedland SL:PDX is the best trail running shoe on the market. The SL:PDX grips the trail like a radial mountain bike tire, offers great support, protects the foot from rocks and roots, prioritizes durability, can speed up on race days and is easily customizable. It’s a serious trail runner’s dream shoe.
And if you’re someone who wants to run more trails but needs motivation? Having a pair of the Speedland SL:PDX in the closet amplifies the siren call of the trails and makes you want to wear it as often as possible.
- Lockdown (sometimes)
- Strap material